Lent 3 :: Don't try this in Church!

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Stained reflection

Don’t try this in church…

Take out a Bible. Any will do, but you might as well find an old one that doesn’t get used much, like that big one there on your coffee table. You know, the one that’s been passed down by your family for generations and has all the dust on the cover? Use that one. Now get a Magic Marker™, preferably a black one. Turn to Exodus, chapter twenty, verse one. I’ll wait…

Found it? Good!

This is the first iteration of the Ten Commandments in the Bible [the second is in Deuteronomy]. Now, using your black marker, go through each of these commandments and mark through the ones you have not kept in the past week. Once again, I’ll wait…

Through? Good!

Now, if you are like most people, you’ve probably got a few that you can still read, because you’ve done well at keeping them in the past seven days. And they are probably the ones having to do with not stealing or killing or committing adultery, though, if we were to regard those commandments we’ve not kept as a community then chances are pretty good that they would all be blacked out!

Now, the Bible is not some sort of guide book on how to live your life and, despite what others may think, neither is it a map showing the way to Heaven. There are far too many layers of meaning in Holy Scripture to allow us to reduce it to some kind of formula or recipe for achieving some heavenly prize. Neither is the Bible a history book [at least not in the way we understand history from a post-Enlightenment perspective]. Nor is the Bible a scientific explanation of the ways of the natural world. Nope, Holy Scripture is much different from that: it is a telling of God’s love for humanity in spite of humanity’s propensity to do everything in its power to reject that love. Science, history, and guidebooks on living tell us how something is. Scripture tells us why.

So we can take the Ten Commandments and measure our lives by their mark. And we can read the stories of how those who’ve gone before us in faith have failed to fully live into the image and likeness of God they were created to be. And we can determine how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go in order to achieve whatever prize we think awaits us. But we must be very careful. Because we’ll always fail. And in our guilt we will always pass that failure onto others—and in the process reject the forgiveness which comes from Christ.

So this Lent, focus not on how short of the mark you’ve come, but on the gift of forgiveness you’ve been offered.


Link to RCL Lectionary for Lent 3, Year B

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